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December 10, 2003

Mighty hunters. Say what you will about Theodore Roosevelt, but his idea of sportsmanship wasn’t a bunch of guys at a private club taking pot shots at cage-reared ducks.

I eat meat, and I’m fully aware that the treatment of animals in a lot of abbatoirs is worse than it is at these clubs where rich people pay to shoot trophy animals. But it requires no sentimentality about animals to observe that this sort of “recreation” reeks of the entertainments of an elite far gone into decadence, like some staged cruelty at the court of Louis XVI. Visualize Cheney and his pals in the clothing of 18th-century French courtiers and it all makes appalling sense.

I’m also reminded of Bored of the Rings—perhaps the most-quoted fantasy novel of the 20th century—in its description of the race of “boggies”:

They seldom exceed three feet in height, but are fully capable of overpowering creatures half their size when they get the drop on them.
(Story via BoingBoing.) [03:01 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Mighty hunters.:

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 03:30 PM:

They are altogether strangers to courage.

Which is to say, I don't think it's decadence, precisely, but such obliterating cowardice that little virtue can survive peaceful contact with it.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 03:41 PM:

Why do I suspect that the other nine people in the hunting party were campaign contributors?

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 03:46 PM:

another example of liberal mendacity, the facts in the matter is that Mr. Cheney shown supreme skills in the art of camouflage, cunningly disguising himself as a mallard amidst the flock so as to instill in his prey a false sense of Alfred E. Newmanism, here can be found some pictures of Mr. Cheney enjoying one of his kills

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 04:21 PM:

Well, I'm going to differ in that while I don't find it brave, I don't find it particularly cruel either.

I have a friend who bought a canned buffalo hunt because her opinion was, if she was going to eat something, she should kill it herself, and shooting an unsuspecting buffalo from across a meadow was less traumatic than killing a cow at point blank--though I have another friend who did that too, with a 4-H bull that she bought, patted and fed a last meal before taking its life. She has an essay on being a conscious carnivore and I've eaten quite a bit of that buffalo and that bull.

Not that I'd credit Cheney with this level of introspection or compassion, but I'm fairly certain those 417 pheasants went into everyone's freezers and are going to be eaten, and 83 pheasants were released into the wild.

Catching fish from a stocked pond isn't exactly fishing, and paying a local farmer to let me pick berries from her carefully cultivated fully laden bushes doesn't let me complain about being a migrant worker, but it's a slight step closer to the source than just having these marvelous things suddenly appear on your plate and having no idea where they come from.

If Cheney were bear-baiting or eating live monkey brains, I'd go with "theater of cruelty." But this seems about the same order as going to Red Lobster and choosing your own victim, ahem, dinner.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 04:30 PM:

Notice however the press release (presumably deliberately?) confuses pen reared with pen shot. In fact the ducks are flighted - typically released from a tower and encouraged - but not required - to fly toward the hunter's blinds by layout and decoys.

Similarly the vulnerability of the pheasants depends a great deal on time lapse from release to hunt - almost always some birds survive to go wild.

I have seldom seen similar outrage over stocked fishing ponds - is there something about warmblooded that makes a difference?

Notice also the parallel with the English - European - practice of driven bird shoots - in which birds have often been pen nested that is come from hatcheries and the harvest is marketed in part to fund preservation of the habitat.

Furthermore it's not always rich folks in private clubs. In places around Chicago the Illinois Fish & Game folks have been known to offer hatchery raised birds to the blue collar union folks. Presumably because the blue collar union folks want it and it allows more hunter throughput on available habitat. Notice too how Joey - Doves - Aiuppo (? query spelling) got his name - of course the Mafia may be rich folks?

disgusted ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 04:46 PM:

CNN footage: US Soldiers execute Iraqi man, cheer.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.literati.org/article5365.htm

young soldier describes how 'awesome' it was.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 04:48 PM:

Reviewing the referenced OP-Ed piece from the New York Times I notice what I at least consider a certain amount of lying with false impressions. For instance the reference to fenced game especially including exotics. Texas for instance as a practical matter is entirely fenced and hunting is on private land - whether the game is native or introduced it will be shot on fenced land - of course some of the enclosures will be fairly large.

There are economic and statutory reasons why game ranching exotics is easier that is more profitable than complying with rules on native species but fair chase on an exotic may involve more chase than sitting on a tower in a soy bean field - see bean field rifle for more information.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 05:00 PM:

Not that I'd credit Cheney with this level of introspection or compassion, but I'm fairly certain those 417 pheasants went into everyone's freezers and are going to be eaten, and 83 pheasants were released into the wild.

Exactly. My dad went on one of these hunts with some folks he was doing business with. I saw the results of it sitting in his freezer a few weeks later. It's basically skeet you can eat.

So is my dad a decadent coward?

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 05:21 PM:

Interestingly, the "information clearinghouse" page is subtitled "NEWS YOU WON'T FIND ON CNN" but is running a clip from CNN....

Killing people: "Awesome! Let's do it again!"

Just the sort of gung-ho attitude the Bushies like to see--but not so obviously on camera.

At least they're having the human turkey-shoot in another country.

Hello, Mr. McVeigh. Glad to see you back from the war. So, what are your plans now that you're out of the service?

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 05:36 PM:

My dad, not by habit a hunter, went to one of these pheasant hunting ranches with some friends. Upstate NY, as I recall. Almost certainly on the blue-collar end of the spectrum.

The birds were chubby and confused and not much of a challenge to plug; a few were run down and killed by a friend's hunting dog. (A no-no that should have earned the pooch removal from the gene pool via the lead-shot-in-the-head method, if you believe the macho bird-dog breeding guff.)

He came out of it rather bemused and mildly disgusted.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 05:38 PM:

Cheney himself apparently shot at least 70 of the pheasants.

And I have never been so happy to put an "h" in a word! Especially since this story is very close to home for me. Literally.

This is nothing like the time my dad shot a pheasant. Singular: one pheasant. (I used to have one of the tail feathers. It got kind of ratty looking and I eventually threw it out.) Which was in the same county -- Rolling Rock is on the eastern side of Westmoreland County, whereas I grew up on the western edge of the county, much nearer Pittsburgh*, and my dad did his hunting much closer to home than Cheney apparently does.

And I think Kathryn is right: Rolling Rock also has strong historic ties to, among others, the Mellon family (who have a big farm nearby), and hence, one suspects strongly, to Richard Mellon Scaife, who before he went on a vendetta against the Clintons was best known hereabouts as the publisher of the Greensburg newspaper, Greensburg being the Westmoreland County seat.

*Channel 4, WTAE, the news source from which Patrick got his story, is actually located in Wilkinsburg, the Pittsburgh suburb where I was born. The cemetery where my maternal grandfather is buried is practically in their antenna's shadow.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 05:52 PM:

Read Audie Murphy's MOH citation - more than 50 bodies dead within feet of his position or watch Gary Cooper, in a movie made under the eye of Alvin York, reenact a turkey shoot experience.

Folks who have slaughtered literally but in the harvesting sense seem to have a more balanced approach to killing in general and in war. At one time every single rated sniper in Vietnam had been raised a hunter. Available resources make more throughput in the field necessary if more than the rich with time and money to travel are going to have the experience. To bar put and take hunting is truly to limit hunting to the wealthy - the resident in a depopulating state who's on food stamps won't have to travel but also won't have the time

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 06:21 PM:

Do not mistake me for an opponent of normal hunting. I'm willing to entertain the idea that the revulsion I feel toward this kind of staged event is off base, but whether it is or not, it has nothing to do with thinking that regular old hunting is immoral or repellent.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 06:53 PM:

Where's the divide and by what rule beyond Mason's Dictum - as Mason said to Dixon "We've got to draw this line someplace" - do we draw the line between staged event and regular old hunting?

For the best general discussion along the general lines of the hunt as harvest in America and doing less shooting when it loses some element of challenge see Don't Get Out Much Anymore by Vance Bourjailly who made his bones as a writer and arranged his life to maximize hunting opportunities (Iowa Writer's Conference and such) then found he didn't get out much anymore presumably for the reasons he writes about. His son Philip Bourjailly does outdoor writing though rather than what for lack of a better term I'll call New York Times literature.

Personally I won't quarrel with the notion that as here large groups and large daily bags aren't where it's at - I don't get out much anymore myself - but staged events and preserves may be the only place an urbanized easterner can get out and work dogs and otherwise do things I value. I could have slaughtered, in the 4H sense, using the same .22 magnum derringer used on domestic animals, as big an elk as I've ever seen (shed antlers picked up by neighbor kids from our driveway and still around to validate the temptation) when it was grazing just below the window of a family cabin in elk country - keep the kids inside the yard is full of elk. Would the fact of happening at 10,000 feet make it better than staged? I've sat in a tree stand that overlooks a salt block for the stock - was that fair? I've sat in the loft of a pole barn at midnight with a yard light shining on a coyote kill in the fields waiting for coyotes to come around - I asked Fish & Game about artificial aids, he said yard lights OK, hunting lights no - but we all agreed shooting coyotes on a sheep farm is better than a cyanide coyote killer.

What besides the fact that Cheney did it makes this event so far off base as to warrant criticism?

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 07:10 PM:

Arguably there is a useful distinction between Marie Antoinette playing at farmer and saying let them eat cake and an old man who grew up in Wyoming playing at hunter.

Notice too that guaranteed hunts can be found in the Mountain West - typically the vendor trees an animal with hounds and uses birdshot to blind it then guides the dude to the spot - there are always ways to engage in unsportsmanlike conduct no matter where you are but see Hemingway - rumor has it sanded to tender horns and soggy with water and feed makes an easier bull - and maybe Ruark on hunting.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 07:16 PM:

To respond to Kevin's post and link concerning being a 'conscious carnivore' and being willing to make some meat -- well, I was in that business for five years.

Most of my career as a programmer and DBA has been working for food processing companies here in CA. I spent a couple of years working on package labeling and product tracking systems in the largest chicken plant on earth. What was interesting was the cultural divide betwezen those who worked in the plant or in the corporate offices a couple of hundred yards away. Many of those who worked in the offices disliked the smell and noise and were unwilling to ever visit the plant, unless required to -- even if the visit only invoved being in the plant offices. Most such employees never took a plant tour and in many ways tried to just overlook what was going on in the rather hard to miss third of a mile long building across the lawn and parking lot where 250,000 birds were slaughtered each working day.

On the other hand, if you were plant staff (and plant management was my main internal customer), it was expected that you would get used to everything going on in there, in an environment that included such genteel sections as the blood tunnel and gizzard cleaner as well as the killing and evisceration lines. If you wanted to get their respect (which was necessary as I was trying to make some painful changes that would take a lot of willing cooperation) you had to be comfortable with spending the morning watching defect tracking procedures on the high speed evis line followed by an excellent chicken teriyaki sandwich in the company restaraunt.

(I will say that our cats loved it when I came home in my "plant shoes", which were always left out in the garage. Hours of enjoyment . . .)

These two groups mixed well, but only away from the plant. Few ever made the transition from being office people to plant people, it mostly went the other way. Of course, there were those who worked in the organic fertilizer subsidiary . . .

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 08:40 PM:

You know, the parallel's between Marie Antionette dressing up in her "dainty shepherdess" outfit, and watching Paris Hilton play at being a rollerskating waittress on "The Simple Life" yesterday...

The word I'd use to describe both isn't "decadent" but "frivolous."

There are many things that are far more frivolous and worthy of criticism. For example, the 1 mil in security costs so that Bush could go to Blair's favorite pub to eat some fish-and-chips.

However, just about every ceremonial duty is frivolous when you come right down to it. The White House Christmas Tree? Don't we have bigger priorities?

However, photo ops and schmoozing are part of a politician's job. First we complain about Cheney never being seen outside his burrow, then we complain about Cheney being seen outside his burrow blowing away pheasants with rich and influential friends, who will be having pheasant dinners for other rich and influential people and saying, "That pheasant you're eating? Mr. Cheney bagged it, and gave it to me for my own freezer."

Politician's need to do this sort of thing, not just to line their re-election fund, but so there'll be influential and powerful people to call on, the proverbial "Captains of Industry," when there's something important that needs to get done, or at least might be a nice idea.

Personally, I don't care if Cheney has to dress up as a dainty shepherdess to get his schmoozing done. What I do care about is that he's responsible for a large number of my fellow citizens and others dying in a war that is neither crucial nor necessary for the interests of my country's national security.

Forget the pheasant hunts, canned or otherwise: It's having a frivolous war that's the theater of cruelty. Dead pheasants simply make an easy and obvious metaphor for dead peasants.

"That Iraqi rebuilding contract? Mr. Cheney bagged it himself and gave it to me."

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 08:44 PM:

clark e myers: What besides the fact that Cheney did it makes this event so far off base as to warrant criticism?

Josh Marshall has what he calls his "Clinton test" for outrageous news: does he feel the same outrage if he imagines it reported about Bill Clinton rather than George Bush. (This is distinct from a quite different "Clinton test" used by some bloggers from the left side of the aisle: "Imagine the feeding frenzy the press would be having if this were news about Clinton rather than Bush.")

I have to say that were this Al Gore rather than Dick Cheney, my stomach would be just as queasy. My God! He shot 70 pheasants himself? What ever happened to "You kill it, you eat it"?

What a waste of life.

tost ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 08:57 PM:

As a hunter - there's a deer hanging outside waiting to be butchered as I write this - and a fly fisher, and as a guy who makes his living writing for hunting and fishing magazines, I'd like to say that canned hunts have no greater connection to real hunting than pornographic sex (sex between strangers in front of a camera) has to making love. Sure, the acts can be construed as similar by someone who sees things from a distance, but that's about it. At their heart, they're completely different.

True hunters - and I've never heard anything which makes me think that Cheney belongs to this category - have a deep respect for their quarry, and, indeed, a stronger reverence for life than most non-hunters. When you've reached inside an animal (say a deer or an elk that you've just killed), your forearms are warm and sticky with that animal's blood and the heart - literally, the heart - is in your hands. At that point, you have an intimate connection with the world that goes far beyond the cerebral masturbation we typically accept as the apex of reality, and you damn well better understand the magnitude of your actions. You've just taken a life. Nothing we do - nothing - is more serious.

Of course, when this happens, when you've made this incredibly difficult choice to kill an animal, you can go two ways. A true hunter feels sorrow, he (or she) feels regret, he feels incredible sadness. In essence, that animal gave its life so that I may live, and my feelings and actions at that point either add meaning to that animal's existence and its sacrifice, or they steal every last shred of dignity from both of us. I don't believe that I have any choice in the matter. I have to hunt with a complete understanding of what I'm doing when I release that arrow or pull that trigger, and I have to hunt with as much respect and integrity as I can find within myself.

A "killer," on the other hand (and for lack of a better title), says, "Great. He's dead. Big son-of-a-bitch, too. Let's go find another one." Folks like that shouldn't have access to weapons.

I hope I've made a distinction that some of you non-hunters can understand. Despite what you might see or read in the media, not every hunter is a crazed lunatic. And if I didn't make the case clearly enough, I apologize. Regardless of whether or not you agree with what I've said here, though, there is a distinction between those of us who believe in "fair chase" and those of us who don't. We aren't all the same.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 09:02 PM:

I think the objectionable element of the staged shoots involves confusion between a critter and a thing.

That's not a good confusion; going out after pheasant, or grouse, or duck, isn't anything even vaguely like fair -- nibbled to death by ducks happens full seldom -- but it is an activity that reminds you that you're trying to kill a creature. It requires, for sucess, a certain amount of understanding and empathy. (why do ducks land where they land? where, if one starts now, is the pheasant going to fly?)

Plump perambulatory targets provided before you do not require those things of your understanding. Indeed, you might be better off without empathy or understanding; the spirit that is glad to know it killed at all, rather than killed well, is across an abyss, and would perhaps be troubled by intimations of what is has lost.

So I think there is very much a difference there, and a real trouble in the practice.

(Farm kid. Have hunted small game, killed meat rabbits with my hands, fed (and scritched the ears of) things I meant to eat.)

sara ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 10:33 PM:

It's the number of pheasants that seems to be getting to people here, not hunting itself. I am from a very urban area, not hunting country at all, but my father did a bit of goose hunting when I was a kid, and i went with him several times (I didn't get to shoot). Part of the experience is the discomfort (he can't do it now -- old bones don't go with 15 degree F for four hours in the blind) and the only intermittent gratification. We still fish fairly frequently, in warmer weather, and the result is similar: four hours in the boat, in a lake that is known to have bass, and you catch only bluegills, if that.

The easy shooting of 70 birds at one time resembles another kind of "hunting" some of the very rich do -- at shops at which we could only dream of buying anything, they buy large multiples of the same highly expensive item. "I'll have one in every color, please."

I wouldn't be happy with hunting the semitame Canada geese that have settled in on golf courses, public parks and office parks all over this mid-Atlantic region. There's a reason for the phrase "shooting fish in a barrel."

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 10:52 PM:

I'm put in mind of a book I had when I was very young, which told of how the Eskimos sang and danced for the whale they killed to honor its spirit. When I read about that at age five, my general opinion was that the whale probably didn't much care why someone had killed it, it cared about having gotten killed in the first place, and the eskimos should realize the singing and dancing were something they were doing to make themselves feel better.

We save the singing and dancing and mourning for the bigger animals, or the ones we particularly like. I mourn--briefly--the bees that drown in my pool, and save the ones I can if I notice them. I smash mosquitos on sight.

I recently killed the rat that had been in my garden, which I had viewed as a cute visitor, like the squirrels and doves and the hummingbirds, until it moved up to sneaking into my kitchen and eating the contents of my fruit bowl. My feelings, taking him out of the trap were "Poor, cute little fluffy creature/Glad you're dead, you plague-bearing pest." He was unceremoniously disposed of in the garbage can. I hope to do the same with the other rat soon, the one that went bouncing down my hall two days ago, but I only chased away the raccoon that came in to eat my french bread, and I saved the baby possums from the dog (releasing them in the bushes at the park). I feel thrilled and honored when mourning doves nest in my flower pots, even if they kill the lobelias, but I was furious to discover that rats had nested in my attic, chewed the ass off of one of my old teddy bears, and used my junior high artwork for a litterbox.

It's a social construct which animals we designate as cute pets, which as wild animals, which as food, and which as undesirable vermin. We have funerals for dogs and cats, we honor deer and buffalo with the reverent sacrifice of the hunt, we slaughter cows and chickens in assembly lines as quickly and humanely as cost efficient, and we happily set out inard-dissolving poison for mice and rats, which we consider inedible despite recipes to the contrary.

It differs elsewhere. My neighbors went to Asia a couple years ago and had rat-on-a-stick from a roadside vendor. They said it was quite good.

If Cheney had killed 70 rats, no one would be concerned, unless he roasted them up and served them on sticks for his campaign contributors. If Cheney had killed 70 kittens, people would be crying for his blood, especially if he roasted the kitties up and served them on sticks.

Farm-raised pheasants are in that odd borderland between wild game, to be hunted with reverence, and domestic poultry, to be slaughtered in an assembly line. If Cheney had worked at Claude's slaughterhouse for an hour and run the chicken beheading machine, he would have also killed 70 pen-raised birds, but they would have been chickens and no one's concerned with that except PETA.

Most people are more disturbed by the pheasants than the ducks because most people have eaten duck, if just at Chinese restaurants, so you don't think of them as "pet" which is the regular class of hand-raised critter that you're not supposed to eat. But pheasants? Those are those beautiful birds that rich noblemen blow away.

People used to eat swans and peacocks too, but if Cheney had offed one of those, imagine the outcry--even if a swan is just a big-assed duck and a peacock is an exceptionally gaudy pheasant, roughly speaking.

Cheney went to a pretentious poultry processing plant and bought 70 birds for his freezer and his friends freezers and engaged in some skeet shooting while he was at it. If he'd eaten a kitten on a stick while wearing a dainty shepherdess costume, we could make a case for "theater of cruelty," but that sounds more like J. Edgar Hoover anyway.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 11:47 PM:

I have a mixed mind. Cheney's shooting party, was just that, a shooting party.

I wonder how I feel about the birds that got away... mostly I think they'll survive, but I wonder how many are going to end up feeding bobcats, because they don't know the tricks of the woods.

As for the shooting, I like pheasant, but I can't imagine eating 70 birds. Much less the 100 which each of them had shot at bagging.

On the other hand, if they are eaten, it is an excess, a gluttony, and that (though I'm not surprised to find it in a successful politician, nor in his friends) is probably what bothers me.

I happen to shoot animals, and those have all been ones which offended me (the oppossums, the crows and the raccoons were after chickens, and the squirrels and pigeons were raiding the fruits and vegetables). Bagging half-a-dozen squirrels is not that much harder than potting tame birds.

So it isn't the method, but as I said, the gluttony of it which bothers me. Half-a-dozen would have been a test (to some degree) of shooting skill, threescore and ten, that's just showing off.

Terry K.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 12:11 AM:

So 70 hatchery pheasants is too many - how about a dozen? Does it make a difference wild or hatchery?

How about a day's bag including the same numbers of prairie dogs? or ground squirrels on cropland?

What about the recorded bags on European driven game hunts? Does it matter when?

What about a man who shot tens of thousands of African plains animals (not that long ago, used a Garand with ball ammo) -?

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 01:13 AM:

70 pheasants may seem like a lot, but the same as fishing, it's customary for the person who got a lot to give some out to those who got a few or didn't get any. I mean, Cheney is hardly going to win any friends (and thus influence) by going, "Damn, you suck at shooting! Didn't hit a one! And I got 70! More for me! Ha-ha!"

I suspect he gave about 40 away to make friends, took the other 30 home, and will have his cook use them for a couple dinner parties with people he wants to influence.

Gluttony? I'd almost accuse Cheney of sensible shopping. It's like making a run to Costco for extra lean meat that won't upset his weak ticker. And we're talking about the Vice President here. Gone are the days when Thomas Jefferson could impress visitors with Mac 'n Cheese.

tost ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 01:49 AM:


Kevin Andrew Murphy wrote - "I'm put in mind of a book I had when I was very young, which told of how the Eskimos sang and danced for the whale they killed to honor its spirit. When I read about that at age five, my general opinion was that the whale probably didn't much care why someone had killed it, it cared about having gotten killed in the first place, and the eskimos should realize the singing and dancing were something they were doing to make themselves feel better."

One of the problems I have with American culture is our innate and pervasive arrogance. This is in no way meant to denigrate Kevin, who92s comment seemed both intuitive and heartfelt, but we look at situations like the one that he described and we tend to think, 93How quaint!94 or 93Can you believe that people really did that?94 or, to paraphrase Kevin, 93That92s a nice way to assuage their guilt.94 We never wonder, though, if animals do have spirits - well, maybe we hope for that possibility as it concerns our favorite pets - but we all seem to believe that we exist in a world where human beings are removed from the rules and constraints that govern the rest of creation.

Here92s something to think about. How would you act differently if you believed, as many individuals and many cultures do, that everything out there - the birds and beasts, the grass and the trees, the soil and the rocks and the air itself - were intertwined in vast mosaic of life that exists in the physical plane, but that transcends the physical world? The Taoists have called this energy The Force, certain Native American tribes call it The-Spirit-That-Moves-In-All-Things, and one of the basic tenets of each of these views is that everything, from the tiniest microbe to the largest whale, has a spirit. So given the possibility that western culture is wrong and that these other cultures are right, wouldn92t that make the Eskimos ceremony as meaningful as many of our own religious rituals?

As Kevin alludes to later in his comments, the real problem with our way of looking at the world is that we create a hierarchy, a rating system for the things we love, the things we love less, and the things we don92t love at all. It might be wiser, however, for all of us to become less judgmental and more open to the possibility that we92re looking at the world through a lens gone askew. There92s no doubt that some people will see Dick Cheney shooting 70 pheasants and think he92s a barbarian, where they really wouldn92t have minded him shooting 70 rats or 70 spiders. But is there a difference? I believe that if you want to treat life as special or sacred, it makes sense to apply that particular principle indiscriminately, regardless of how difficult it may be on a day-to-day basis.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 02:34 AM:

Clark: Yes, it makes a difference. The idea is hunting as a sport vs. "hunting" as a mass slaughter. (Note my earlier comparison to my dad's one pheasant vs. Cheney's 70. And tonight's local TV news upped that to 75.)

Also keep in mind Theodore Roosevelt, to whom Patrick referred at the beginning of his post. This is the story of how "teddy bears" came to be: TR, on vacation during his presidency, was hunting bear in Mississippi (not my first idea of where to hunt bear, but never mind) and didn't get one. Finally someone associated with his hunting party managed to catch a bear, tied or chained it to a tree, and offered it to TR to shoot, just so he could say he shot a bear. Some say it was a cub, and not a full-grown bear, even. Others say it was an old, injured bear.

Roosevelt, insulted, refused to kill a tied-up animal because there was no sport or skill involved. (Though the versions that say the bear was old and injured go on to note that others in the party did eventually shoot it to put it out of its misery.) The story got out, cartoonists started drawing Teddy with the bear -- the latter usually as a cub -- and toymakers started making "Teddy bears." TR became an even bigger hero than he was before because of the story of the bear he *didn't shoot!

dglynn ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 03:12 AM:

Here's the part that's repulsive to hunters; are you hunting the game in it's native habitat(where it was born and grew up), or are you shooting game that is confused just to be out in a field at all?

To be qualified as hunting in my(and my hunting friends) book, you have to go into the quarry's domain, and attempt to take a wily native who knows everything about the area you are hunting.

Would anyone imagine the reaction if Cheney decided to go to that chicken processing plant and kill his own chickens under the guise of "sport"?

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 03:42 AM:

As I see it, the eskimo ceremony is as meaningful or meaningless as any of our own rituals. My trouble with the eskimo ritual is that it's a double level of presumption: 1). that the whale actually has a spirit, and therefore suffers no permanent harm from the killing, and 2). that the whale's spirit will think that it's jolly fun to be sung and danced to while its body is eaten.

Something I hadn't mentioned, though it is an important bit to the ritual, is that after the eskimo harpoons the whale, he's supposed to coax it into coming to the village with promises of the aforementioned singing and dancing, and if the whale breaks the line and swims free, it's assumed to have said "No."

Which is strikingly similar to the story I read today about the German cannibal who only ate people with their consent.

Tibetan buddhists believe that if animal life is taken, you must say a prayer for each creature you kill, no matter what it is. So it's a lot more efficient to kill a yak than to eat a bucket of popcorn shrimp.

Then there's the old European folk belief that if you're going to cut any wood off a living tree, you must pledge to allow the same to be done with you when you are a tree and the tree is a person. Which is arguably more in line with the intertwinedness of all life than the pop-morality of PETA which has the heirarchy of animals=sacred/plants=fair game, and conveniently ignores the fact that vegetable farmers kill a lot of animals in the process of preparing the fields and guarding the crops. How many mice were rototilled for your tofu?

The other trouble is that everyone has a heirarchy. The Tibetans do it by number, the Eskimos do it by volume, Westerners do it by descending ranks of human/pet/wild animal/game/livestock/vermin/parasite (I've yet to see even vegans mourning liver flukes or tapeworms) and so on.

As Westerners, we may delude ourselves into thinking our culture is secular, but that is demonstrably untrue. Even if we aren't members of an organized religion, there are many things we hold sacred. Consider the reaction at my old college, UCSC, when a group of frat rats decided it would be a fun prank to kill and eat the Porter college's pet koi. Not only was the fish a pet, and thus second only to man in the Western heirarchy, but it was a campus mascot, with all the attendant ritual thereto, even including a spontaneous memorial shrine at the pond and a matching memorial web page. There are humans whose deaths warrant less tears.

Our folk beliefs are based on this system: "All Dogs Go to Heaven" (liver flukes and leeches do not). Goldie the Koi has a Mexican-style votive shrine with offerings and a prayer recommending her soul to Heaven, even if Heaven would get awfully crowded if all fish got to go there too.

We may be arrogant about and oblivious to our folk beliefs, but they're still there, and woe betide anyone who crosses the line.

Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 06:45 AM:

"If Cheney had killed 70 kittens, people would be crying for his blood..."

Sounds more like Bill Frist (not sure how many -- probably fewer than 70), and I'm still waiting for some audible cries of outrage.

Rivka Wald ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 09:32 AM:

Kevin, if someone raised rats to be docile in captivity and then released a bunch of them so Cheney could kill them, I would indeed be concerned.

I don't see anyone in this discussion who's being squeamish about where meat comes from, or indignant about the extra-special rights of cute animals, so there's not much point in your continuing to repeatedly argue those two points.

What I find distasteful about the pheasant hunt is that it was transparently done to tap into the symbolic power our culture invests in the act of Man Killing Animal.

Even if Cheney does plan to eat all 70 pheasants, how come he's chosen this particular act of self-sufficiency, killing his own meat, instead of other acts of self-sufficiency like planting his own tomatoes and weaving his own cloth? Why aren't there publicity photos and admiring news stories about Cheney and his buddies at a quilting bee?

Because our culture has invested Hunting with symbolic significance for male power and potency and manliness, that's why. Cheney killing animals - in the right way, with proper symbolic trappings - is supposed to convey certain things to us about what kind of man he is.

And it has to be the right kind of killing. Cheney and his buddies wouldn't work the chicken-beheading machine at a slaughterhouse for an hour, now, would they? It's not the kind of thing people want to do - and if they did want to do it, everyone would think they were freaks. And he doesn't walk around the grounds of his Undisclosed Location with a .22 rifle in case the rabbits are getting into the garden and he can pop a couple for dinner. No, it needs to be killing invested with the symbolism of the Mighty Hunter, for it to have value as promotion of Cheney's manliness.

I find that whole system distasteful enough that it really turned me off when John Kerry went out and shot a couple of ducks, or whatever, for a photo op. But this is a ludicrous parody of the Mighty Hunter Scene - gross overkill, not even the slightest fair chance for the animal, no risk to the hunter. It bothers me that I'm supposed to think it was a manly act. It bothers me that it was done largely so that I and others would think it was a manly act.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 12:07 PM:

I find that whole system distasteful enough that it really turned me off when John Kerry went out and shot a couple of ducks, or whatever, for a photo op. But this is a ludicrous parody of the Mighty Hunter Scene - gross overkill, not even the slightest fair chance for the animal, no risk to the hunter. It bothers me that I'm supposed to think it was a manly act. It bothers me that it was done largely so that I and others would think it was a manly act.

Er, did Cheney or his people publicize this at all? The only report I've seen of it was the one Patrick linked to at the beginning of his post, which was specifically put out to criticize Cheney. And it's not clear that the people who put out that press release got the story from Cheney's people.

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 01:00 PM:

The story -- that Chaney had been at the Rolling Rock Club in Westmoreland County to hunt -- was on the Pittsburgh TV news, and in the next day's local papers, before the Humane Society complaint that was reported in the article Patrick linked to. So it was not the first those of us in the region had heard about it.

P.S. Note that the PittsburghLive.com and TribLive.com sites are the web presence of the papers owned by Richard M. Scaife.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 01:56 PM:

And I see from those stories that Cheney's spokesman specifically declined to say where he was. It's possible that Cheney's people are content to let Scaife do some propagandizing for them, but then that doesn't explain why the PG reported on it too, in roughly the same terms as the Trib.

So I guess I still don't see how this was supposedly done to awe people with Cheney's prowess as a Mighty Hunter.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 02:32 PM:

Rivka,

Good point, but you're forgetting that most of the outrage here is not because Cheney went out to perform a manly act for the cameras, but because the people who actually do those manly acts declare Cheney's to be phoney. Real men, like T.R., tromp around in the wilderness for three days, and when they finally find a beat up bear tied to a tree, tell someone else to kill it because it would be unsporting (and thus unmanly) for them to euthanize it themselves.

Now, props to T.R. for doing the "manly" thing right, but is the problem that he's doing it for the cameras or that he's doing it at all? And is it properly manly when you have guides and guns and dogs and every possible perk and accessory for your hunt save a gamekeeper stocking the woods with game so you can go in and have a proper time, like medieval nobility?

I also think we're investing this with extra symbolism it doesn't need, because even though live skeet shooting is disdained by real hunters (up through several levels of "real"), if he shot 70 pheasants, he's obviously done this before, and nobody gave it any press when he was just some fat old rich guy who wasn't Vice President.

If he got a high score shooting clay pigeons, PETA and the Humane Society wouldn't care, but the anti-gun lobby still would, while the NRA types would be looking favorably at the good shooting and him sharing the same hobby.

You can lionize or demonize the act all you like, depending on your personal values, but it's not like anyone's surprised at it.

Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 06:30 PM:

Actually, Kevin, what bugs me is that Cheney went out to act manly for the cameras and 70-odd pheasants died for that--and apparently, that alone. Life is worth more than a photo op.

My family hunts, and it doesn't bother me. They go into the woods and blow up deer. Three things result from this slaughter:
1. Food
2. The money necessary to maintain the forest lands
3. A controlled deer population that would otherwise starve to death because there isn't enough fodder for all of them, and not enough predators to thin the herds

My uncle raises cattle, and chickens, and pigs. I've eaten all of that. Doesn't bother me. Eating meat doesn't bother me. If my uncle raised chickens, and cattle, and pigs, just so he could enjoy killing them, I would be completely skeezed out.

You seem to think Cheney will eat the birds (all 70 of them!) I think this is extreeemely unlikely. I've had pheasant, and picking out shot from your dinner isn't as much fun as it sounds. Those little guys are unlikely to wind up under a glass bell.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 07:30 PM:

I've eaten pheasant, picking shot out of it too. I suspect they will end up on someone's plate.

The only time I've heard of pheasant going to waste was when a pheasant hunting friend of mine had the freezer act up and he ended up with some rotten mummified pheasants. He was cursing about that.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 07:44 PM:

Actually, Kevin, what bugs me is that Cheney went out to act manly for the cameras and 70-odd pheasants died for that--and apparently, that alone. Life is worth more than a photo op.

Except that it wasn't a photo op. If it had been a photo op, presumably there would have been photos of it... or at least Cheney's spokesman would have been willing to discuss it.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 10:30 PM:

Course if you want 70 dead pheasants without shot consider running a combine over a field full of nesting hens - the hens will hug the nests until it's too late - then can (canning jars) the meat and feed the family pheasant long after it's no treat.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 11:42 PM:

Did I miss it, or is Patrick the only person who's even mentioned class in this discussion? It's easy to get distracted by the whole meat-thing, and the whole hunting-thing. That's not the reason that this is off-putting behavior. It was, as has been pointed out, not hunting, but a "shooting party." Shooting parties are things that Edwardian gentlemen did. A party of half a dozen or so gentlemen (cared for by beaters and hound masters and footmen and other miscellaneous servants) could account for hundreds, if not thousands of pheasants in a single day. The meat may or may not have been dressed and given to the poor. The point of the slaughter had nothing to do with man's relationship to nature, and everything to do with man's relationship to wealth. I am at least consistent, in that I find that kind of entertainment revolting in an English gentleman of the Edwardian era, and the Vice-President of the United States. An Edwardian might well think that made me a dangerous democrat.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2003, 02:45 AM:

Did I miss it, or is Patrick the only person who's even mentioned class in this discussion?

You missed it. clark e myers and Stefan Jones both mentioned that this kind of pheasant hunting is available to blue-collar people, and I mentioned that my dad had done it (although you have no way of knowing where my father and I are class-wise).

Moreover, Googling for " 'pheasant hunting' farm" will net you a ton of links, to many different places around the country that offer this kind of thing. Lost River Game Farm (to which I can't post the link 'cause of "questionable content", but it's what you'd expect) offers the following package: "12 PHEASANTS, 5 CHUKARS, 5 QUAIL, A DOG AND A GUIDE FOR HALF A DAY. FOR TWO HUNTERS. TOTAL COST $225"

On the higher end of the scale, there's Carr Pheasants, which costs $1500 for three days of hunting, but includes airfare, food, drinks, and lodging.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2003, 09:18 PM:

Class has been mentioned before. My pheasant-hunting friend isn't a senator's son, but is a senator's grandson, and a lifelong Republican. And while I can't fess up to having engaged in the passtimes of Edwardian gentlemen myself, I have engaged in the sport of medieval kings as per The Hunting Book of Gaston Phebus. I have whippets, one of whom is a champion lure courser, and I have (though not recently) taken dogs field coursing to chase down actual live rabbits. (Wild jackrabbits, not pet bunnies.)

My last dog to do this was fast as the wind, but didn't have any killer instinct, amusing herself by literally running circles around the rabbit, then poking it with her nose so it would run more and she could play--which I was actually happy with, since I didn't have much use for a dead rabbit. And I know people who engage in falconry, which is very much the same sort of sport.

But it's not as if noblemen and gentlemen were the only ones to engage in these sports. Whippets, also known as whippersnappers, or "snap dogs," were so named because of the passtime of Welsh coalminers of getting a pen of them and tossing rabbits over the fence, seeing which dog leapt the highest and snapped the rabbit in midair. This is something I'd put under the category of "theater of cruelty" and as such I haven't done it, except with toys and dog biscuits. But the dogs really enjoy it and are very much bred for it, explaining why whippets are also champion frisbee catchers.

I can really not get incensed about Cheney engaging in a hobby similar to ones I've engaged in myself or that my friends participate in.

And as mentioned earlier, if it was a photo-op, I'd expect photographs. I'm pretty certain Cheney did this because he enjoys it, not to prove his machismo or play for the hunter vote.

After all, from the machismo and hunting end, it's pretty wussy.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2003, 02:31 AM:

Kevin, I'm not sure that the comparison between tossing rabbits to whippets and a shooting party is a good one. The first is about the skill of the dog, and delight in killing, I guess. The second is about the skill of the human being, and the delight in the killing. Shooting parties have an element of self-aggrandizement that many other blood sports do not have. Pheasants, also, are associated with wealth. Rabbits are not. The two past-times are obviously not unrelated. They appear to fall under the people will be people rule of thumb. However, they have significant class differences which I continue to think are relevant.

I did notice the comment that such a shooting party outing was something that a blue collar person could purchase. What is it that they are really purchasing? Dead pheasants? Much cheaper to buy at a market, surely. A unique hunting experience? I suppose, but it's an awful lot like hunting with training wheels. Possibly what they're buying is convenience. A pheasant hunt without any of the difficulties associated with a wild pheasant hunt. What is convenience, though, but wealth? I think that what they are buying is an experience of wealth.

I also think it relelvant that Cheney went "hunting" with a friend at a club where his friend has a membership. That is to say, this wasn't a one-time event, at least for the club member. I don't think real well of politicians who accept invitations to play a round of golf at exclusive country clubs where Jews and blacks are not admitted as members, either.

Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2003, 10:01 AM:

I'm a bit confused here. Are we opposed to shooting (and, presumably, later eating) pheasants on the grounds that it's cruel to the pheasants -- in which case, anyone who eats a factory-raised chicken is party to something a lot more unkind and unnatural, if they're of a mind to worry about such things; or are we opposed to shooting pheasants because it's a tacky bit of aristocratic excess -- in which case, counter-arguments about middle-class or blue-collar pheasant hunting and similar sports would appear to merit some consideration?

(I also admit to stumbling, for a moment, over the phrase "buying an experience of wealth", but eventually decided that "wealth" as used in the present case has to be a term of art meaning something beyond the mere possession of sufficient money, so I let it go.)

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2003, 11:56 AM:

"Buying an experience of wealth" is what you do when you buy a narrow, and quite limited, opportunity to act how the wealthy presumptively get to act all the time. The all-expenses-paid -weekend-for-two prize is (I think) the most basic example. It's necessarily not something you can sustain. (Rather like the way people dress for proms and weddings; it's very often in immitation of the expected dress of a social class to which they do not belong.)

My objection is to taking things out of the pen to shoot them.

If you want to eat them, and they're penned already, shooting's an entirely unnecessary step.

Slaughter is what one does because otherwise the thing you mean to eat will squirm overmuch when the fork is stuck into it. To take joy in slaughter, rather than (perhaps) pleasure in one's competence at a necessity of conduct, seems to me entirely an easy thing to call a defect of character.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2003, 12:18 PM:

Possibly what they're buying is convenience. A pheasant hunt without any of the difficulties associated with a wild pheasant hunt. What is convenience, though, but wealth? I think that what they are buying is an experience of wealth.

clark e myers specifically pointed out above that put-and-take hunting makes hunting more accessible to people who aren't rich.

And when the price is as low as $125 per person for a hunt, you're not talking about the experience of wealth anymore, you're talking about something that's moved from being the province of the wealthy to being available to everyone.

Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2003, 02:33 PM:

"Buying an experience of wealth" is what you do when you buy a narrow, and quite limited, opportunity to act how the wealthy presumptively get to act all the time. The all-expenses-paid -weekend-for-two prize is (I think) the most basic example. It's necessarily not something you can sustain. (Rather like the way people dress for proms and weddings; it's very often in immitation of the expected dress of a social class to which they do not belong.)

I'm still a bit confused -- are we supposed to regard this as inherently a bad thing? The wealthy presumably do things like shooting pheasants, dressing up in frivolous but good-looking garments, dining at really good restaurants, and so forth because they find the experiences enjoyable. Presumably, so do those blue-collar and middle-class types who choose to take advantage of the levelling power of cash in order to purchase the same experiences for themselves.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 10:40 AM:

If the core of the matter is to obtain the experience of wealth, rather than the enjoyment of the experience, I do think that's a bad thing.

Which is where the 'experience of wealth' descriptor comes into it; what you do for fun might be very expensive. It might be the same thing someone else does to feel rich. I don't think those are the same activity in the shape of their practice, though they might be very similar in the structure of their events.

Confusing wealth with an inherent good, a moral good, or a state of probity such that the rules of conduct which apply to the wealthy are properly less restrictive, seems to me to be an obvious bad thing.

I'm also indifferent to who shoots something they don't eat; that's not a good thing.

Cases where you're shooting it for someone else to eat vary across purpose; if you're shooting it so those other folks can eat is a different matter from the carcass being given to the poor since you weren't going to do anything with it anyway. And shooting things you had penned is just contemptible.

tavella ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 12:47 PM:

My father, while a very urban writer, made plenty of time each fall and spring to go out and hunt deer and birds. I refuse to use the word 'hunting' to describe throwing a bunch of confused handraised birds in front of guns. If you want to hunt, you hunt. If you want to 'harvest', you take the birds out of the pen and wring their necks; quick and almost painless, unlike being winged by a shotgun by an amateur and left to flop around on the ground.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 02:50 PM:

Josh said:

clark e myers specifically pointed out above that put-and-take hunting makes hunting more accessible to people who aren't rich.

Are you referring to this quote by clark e meyers?:

In places around Chicago the Illinois Fish & Game folks have been known to offer hatchery raised birds to the blue collar union folks. Presumably because the blue collar union folks want it and it allows more hunter throughput on available habitat.

If so, I wasn't sure what he meant. I had thought that it meant that hatchery-raised birds had been released to the wild in order to increase the density of the available game. I had also assumed that this was not done directly before a hunt, and that the pheasants had some time to acclimate.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 03:18 PM:

Debra Doyle said:

'm a bit confused here. Are we opposed to shooting (and, presumably, later eating) pheasants on the grounds that it's cruel to the pheasants -- in which case, anyone who eats a factory-raised chicken is party to something a lot more unkind and unnatural, if they're of a mind to worry about such things; or are we opposed to shooting pheasants because it's a tacky bit of aristocratic excess -- in which case, counter-arguments about middle-class or blue-collar pheasant hunting and similar sports would appear to merit some consideration?

What I object to is the conspicuous consumption involved in this type of "sport." As for class, the blue collar and middle class of this century can often buy an upper class experience -- if they can save enough. It's one of the weird ways in which social mobility and money work in our era. Graydon nailed it with the "all expenses paid" example. A vacation which includes the aspect of not having to worry about money is not the same as not having to worry about money. Have you seen the cruise ship adverts where someone back from a cruise talks about how they had been treated like royalty, and how difficult it is for them to return to real life? That's what I meant by "the experience of wealth."

There's a long tradition in English and American history of slaughter for the sake of slaughter. I think of this as conspicuous consumption of the worst sort. It is why there are no longer Passenger Pigeons, and the bison are an endangered species. The Audobon Society's Christmas Bird Count was a response to "a holiday tradition known as the Christmas 'Side Hunt': They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won." Given the way hunting rights worked at the turn of the century and earlier in Great Britain, this cannot have been a sport for the lower classes. This was a sport for landowners and guests. Gentlemen, so to speak.

Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 03:53 PM:

If the core of the matter is to obtain the experience of wealth, rather than the enjoyment of the experience, I do think that's a bad thing.

Which is where the 'experience of wealth' descriptor comes into it; what you do for fun might be very expensive. It might be the same thing someone else does to feel rich. I don't think those are the same activity in the shape of their practice, though they might be very similar in the structure of their events.

But how are we supposed to determine, from outside observation, whether a person is doing something for the pleasure of the experience or doing it for the experience of feeling rich? Given the opacity of other people's motives at the best of times, I'm inclined to do those people who say that they're enjoying the experience for its own sake the courtesy of believing them when they say it.

I think that what's starting to make me feel uneasy about this line of thought is that it's edging perilously close to saying that there are some pleasures that blue-collar and middle-class people simply shouldn't enjoy -- not because they are cruel pleasures, or because they are wasteful ones, but because they are not pleasures that properly belong to blue-collar and middle-class people.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 03:53 PM:

Lydia: No, I was referring to this one (posted December 10, 2003 05:52 PM):
Available resources make more throughput in the field necessary if more than the rich with time and money to travel are going to have the experience. To bar put and take hunting is truly to limit hunting to the wealthy - the resident in a depopulating state who's on food stamps won't have to travel but also won't have the time

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 04:06 PM:

I think that what's starting to make me feel uneasy about this line of thought is that it's edging perilously close to saying that there are some pleasures that blue-collar and middle-class people simply shouldn't enjoy -- not because they are cruel pleasures, or because they are wasteful ones, but because they are not pleasures that properly belong to blue-collar and middle-class people.

I don't think that this is a pleasure that anyone, rich or poor, upper, middle, or lower class, should be able to indulge in. I wouldn't outlaw it, but I do think that it should bear great social opprobrium. Of course, such disapproval is relevant to the middle and lower classes, but not to the upper classes. As Paul Fussell points out, one of the characteristics of the truly rich is that they live entirely out of sight of the rest of the world. Difficult to bring social pressure to bear on people about whom you can know nothing.

The connection between the upper class and cruelty is one that is old and disturbing. To my eye, what Cheney was doing pulled up that image. The bag count and the helplessness of the targets and the wealth of the participants combined to make it a distressing spectacle, reminiscent of the amusements of the aristocracy. We are fortunate in never having had a real aristocracy in this country. Even so, the old monied familes sometimes do a good enough imitation to make my stomach hurt.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 04:07 PM:

Josh, what is put and take hunting? I think I blipped over that passage because I didn't know the term.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 04:51 PM:

Put and take hunting should be obvious though more commonly encountered in stocked fishing ponds - there are fish ponds often targeted especially at children and neophytes where the average time to a catch is monitored and when it falls too low more fish are stocked. That is the effort is not to establish a sustained population but rather to maximize the fishing experience. This is actually quite common in reservoir ponds where the drawdown is erratic or the winter freeze is a more or less total kill. Similarly although say Rex Stout spent a month every summer on a guided horse packing trip today's youth mostly doesn't have T.R.'s options if they are going to hunt at all and especially if they are going to learn to shoot game. Buck fever and bad shots are often the result of having to take a bad shot or none. Paint the Mona Lisa first try or forget fine art? Sing at the Met but no singing in the shower?

When only the purist example and nothing else is allowed then the purist example is not really allowed either.

tavella ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 06:42 PM:

Again, that's ridiculous. The concept that herding raised and dazed creatures in front of a gun is somehow either an experience resembling hunting or somehow cheaper. Handraised animals are *more* expensive than going hunting on public lands. And hunting is not especially difficult; a small amount of target practice to learn to hit what you aim at, following the instruction to sit quietly until the world stops noticing you are there, and *shooting only at what is close and clear enough to hit*. Which is the biggie -- I completely do not understand how people get away without manslaughter charges because they thought a noise in a bush was a turkey or someone wearing white gloves was a deer. If you are patient, animals will appear. If they do not, go to the damn store for a steak, don't take bad shots.

If you are going to kill an animal, it is your responsibility to do it the quickest and cleanest way possible. You hunt with a gun *because* you can't get close enough to wring a duck's neck. You hunt with a rifle because you can't get close enough to shoot a human killer between a deer's eyes. If you have animals in a pen, you kill them quickly and cleanly, you don't herd them out for your fucking *entertainment*.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2003, 07:27 PM:

Interesting to hear the agricultural and herding revolution was based on a misapprehension? And Ghu knows there are plenty of public lands in say Illinois to boot; let's all go hunting down Cottage Grove round midnight. Learning to hit what you aim at in field positions under unknown light and emotional conditions must be easier for others than it has been for me. I guess the whole "early blur" research was a hoax and everybody reads the Hunter Safety picture "This is a a deer" right the first time? That last bit above is not my kink but I gather from spam it exists on the Internet? Is participating in a p0rn film truly a fate worse than death for an animal at stud?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 09:42 AM:

Clark -

I don't think hunting is appropriately made easy any more than high-precision machining or flying aircraft or ballet care appropriately made easy. Some things are actually difficult, and must be approached as difficult to be done at all.

Debra -

I don't think anyone, irrespective of class or station, should be enaged in shooting animals released from pens for the purpose. I've already said that in this discussion. I don't understand how you can conclude I might think it's ok on a class basis, when I've said I don't think it's ok at all. I even said I thought it was a contemptible practice.

To take joy in slaughter is a flaw and a failing.

To not know that taking joy in slaughter can be thought a flaw and a failing, to not give any least sign of being aware of the question, is disturbing in anyone of whatever class. It's more disturbing in a man who has provided the primary political power and backing to wage an aggressive war which appears to have been planned by a process consisting almost entirely of wishful thinking.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 11:02 AM:

Clark, thanks for clarifying "put and take" hunting. It is about what I thought it was, I think. Essentially, the population of a game animal is increased to a density where being able to find and shoot at one takes less time because there are more of them. Do I have that right?

If I understand correctly, then I probably don't hate "put and take," in the same way that I do "shooting parties," though I have some doubts about it. My reservations have to do with how competent the animal is in the "wild" once it is released. If, being farm-reared, it is significantly less skillful at hiding from hunters than its wild counterparts, then it seems a bit like cheating, to me. Still, I assume we're talking about hunting within the normal permits and limits, right?

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 11:36 AM:

My reservations have to do with how competent the animal is in the "wild" once it is released. If, being farm-reared, it is significantly less skillful at hiding from hunters than its wild counterparts, then it seems a bit like cheating, to me. Still, I assume we're talking about hunting within the normal permits and limits, right?

I've seen hunting farms advertising that they raise their birds as wild as possible, so that hunting them isn't like hunting chickens. As far as limits go, the package includes a certain number of birds seeded in a field, and you take as many of them as you can shoot. If you want to shoot more, or if you want to increase your odds of taking at least one bird home, you can pay to have more birds put in the field.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 11:38 AM:

Put and take happens both ways - or at least I use the term to include game farm shooting where the seasons and bag limits may be different than those that apply outside the game farm. I'd say the example with which this discussion opened was an example of put and take and I'd guess that normal in the wild limits did not apply. Notice that there are different rules for hatchery (keep) and wild (release) fish around Seattle. There are or once were public lands to make a day trip from Chicago where the hunting pressure was intense and pheasants were released regularly during the season to maintain a population - this allowed a hunting experience on public lands not otherwise available and presumably kept down tresspass and abuse of private lands - normal season and bag limits applied.

Don't quite understand the moral notion of not making hunting easy, at least to start, any more than the notion that flying aircraft shouldn't be easy - disclaimer I've been paid to help make flying airplanes easier and safer. Firing squad style include lots of duds and pay the penalty in wounded but not finished game?

How about hunting with Harrison Bergeron - must be sea level acclimated and then hunt wild sheep above 10,000 feet? Then too failure can be as easy as you want to make it.

How do folks feel about trophy hunting - horns skulls for the record book or nothing - as an appropriate handicap?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 01:12 PM:

Hunting is going out and killing something you can eat, and from the killing of which you derive status. When you don't derive status from it, and eat it, it isn't called hunting without modification. (Trophy hunting, varmit shooting, plinking; none of this gets called hunting.)

From what, then, should the status derive?

If it derives from killing an animal, you're valorizing the trivial part. Modern (in the evolutionary sense) humans have always been able to kill the largest game there was if they could get in weapons range of it; modern (in the historical sense) weapons are such that the 'getting into range' part isn't exceedingly easy, in comparison to former days.

Indeed, if you're making killing the main point -- as people who need the meat often do -- you throw away the rules, and jacklight the deer or set out salt or whatever, because the rule at that point is "I need to eat".

(I don't have a problem with a limited amount of that, as it happens, but this is tangential to my main point.)

So, if we're going to call it 'hunting' and accept it as a legitimate, respectable activity (unlike things like cock-fighting or bear baiting), there are rules. Tags, bag limits, weapon requirements, and so on, but also the (usually unspoken) requirement that the hunter do something actually difficult, something that asks for skill and effort.

Which is precisely why some people bow hunt; it asks more of them, and they derive a more robust sense of accomplishment from succeeding at it. Or why it's the custom that one shoots ducks on the wing, and only on the wing.

So "a hunting experience" that consists of things released from a pen isn't something I'm necessarily required to regard as the same thing as a hunting experience that requires some skill at stalking, unobserved movement, or similar woodcraft; if it is not actually difficult, there is no social requirement to grant it the status of hunting.

I don't regard plinking perambulatory targets as anything like difficult enough to grant the social status of hunting.

Trophy hunting... some of it (solo stalking Cape Buffalo with self bows, frex) clearly requires great amounts of skill and courage, but it (on the whole) doesn't have anything like a sufficiently high hunter death rate to merit status on its own, and it generally acts to badly distort the management of public lands, so I'm against it.

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 01:37 PM:

Graydon: What makes you think these pheasants weren't on the wing? That's my understanding of the way these outings work: the birds may be pen-raised, but once they're in the field it's just like any other hunt. I've never heard anything to indicate that the birds were shot on the ground.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 01:55 PM:

Josh -

I have no idea if the pheasants fly or not. (I'll note that pen raised pheasants often can't fly, or fly well, just like pen raised chickens or guinea fowl.)

"perambulatory", used above, was meant to evoke using live animals as targets, rather than the stately plod of the walking pheasant.

Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 02:04 PM:

I don't think anyone, irrespective of class or station, should be enaged in shooting animals released from pens for the purpose. I've already said that in this discussion. I don't understand how you can conclude I might think it's ok on a class basis, when I've said I don't think it's ok at all.

I'm trying to disentangle and categorize the various objections in my own mind, is all, since the discussion as a whole has gotten them thoroughly cross-connected. And for me, at least, it makes a difference why someone is disapproving of something. "Because it's inherently immoral", while an assertion that (as we've seen) is open to argument, is at least to my mind a more valid objection than, say, "Stupid rich people do it," or "I think it's icky."

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 02:06 PM:

Others of course bow hunt because the seasons are different - no doubt such folks are to be despised?

Where is the line between primitive weapons hunting (typically original or replica black powder) and enhanced center line shotgun primer pyrodex (which does in fact at some point reach a point of disqualification for primitive weapon season use)? Are the folks who seek some advantage therefore inherently evil in proportion to the advantage sought? Should fair chase forbid using binoculars?

I for one would certainly never require, and seldom even ask - de gustibus - anyone to regard anything any particular way (though I am interested if Graydon should accumulate all his regard for the entire LOTR movie trilogy and make them accessible to everyone {save some Welsh?} but I feel about as much obligation to adopt the one as the other for my own)- at most I would ask if I tag a deer in the woods and nobody knows do I derive status?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 03:29 PM:

Clark -

You've got some emotional investment in hunting as a virtuous activity, or we wouldn't be having quite this discussion.

And note that I didn't say primitive weapons hunting was more virtuous; I pointed to some of the people who did it as an example of the thing I was talking about in the social construction of "hunting".

If you tag a deer in the woods and no one knows, doesn't that mean you've neglected to report it to the fish and game folks? In Ontario, you can derive a felonious status from that....

More seriously, you will know, and it pretty clearly does intersect with your self image in some way.

(And I've since I've now seen the extended Two Towers movie, I can assert that I think it's merely greviously disappointing, instead of actively appalling and lamentable. Fellowship was almost right; I have serious doubts Return of the King will be, and well, Towers was bad enough that I don't want to give it any publicity of any kind, in whatever small way I might.)

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 04:51 PM:

Just answering the implied question, in general as phrased it does mean I haven't reported it, but also the tag implies a legal taking. Again generally there is no general obligation to report across much of the west and some of the east although there is often a specific obligation to report for a given wildlife management area including checkpoints - last time I checked, may no longer be quite true - there were parts of the tree farmed south where whitetail have achieved nuisance status and the limit is one a day for a month - nobody worries about too close a count. In other places Fish and Game will survey a sample of folks who bought tags - no response required. Don't have to run to Fish and Game if I kill a deer (legally) on family land and walk it home.

In fact I might do anything from bone on the spot and never mention it to salvaging parts especially the lower jaw bone for management studies.

Of course I have some emotional involvement. I do it. Much of my point in this particular discussion is summed up in "When only the purist example and nothing else is allowed then the purist example is not really allowed either." I'm happier thinking of myself as a purist but I'll argue for the rights of the guy who is less pure and admire the guy who is more pure.

I did troll with the tale of man who shot tens of thousands of head of African game - the background was an effort to preserve the then existing local African ecosystem against a system of clearing everything out and cropping beef to sell for dollars by demonstrating that more meat could be had from harvest in a balanced ecosystem and more meat from a balanced ecosystem could feed more hungry people who had moved to the African cities cheaper - that decision of course was follow the dollar - harvest fenced beef not wild giraffe but also no place for giraffe at all. My point in bringing it up here was to test the hypothesis that hunters are more inclined to think of good for the species and for the ecosystem and non-hunters are more likely to think of the individual animal and to be squeemish without being humanitarian - perhaps wrongly I tend to associate antihunters with folks who abandon dogs at the end of the road (none of this group I'm sure but still). There is a great divide and more of it is emotional than rational.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:41 AM:

Something I've noticed in all this talk of decadent rich people and their frivolous pleasures is that no one has mentioned the livelihoods of the non-rich non-frivolous people who make their living providing the pheasants and hunting dogs and so on to the rich and rich-for-the-weekend sorts who go to their farms. Gamekeeping is a trade that's gone on since before the middle ages, and it's not last Tuesday that people got the idea of raising game.

Some game is pretty damn easy to raise too. Herd animals like deer and antelope, same as cows, just need land to graze on and protection from predators.

I've eaten antelope at restaurants. Antelope that was from game farms who had bought the excess breeding stock from zoos, who had run out of things to do with antelopes because they're antelopes, and they breed like creatures that are occasionally eaten by lions and need to keep up their numbers because of it.

Put pheasants in a henhouse where they don't have to contend with foxes? Hand-raised does not mean they were lovingly coddled and read bedtime stories. It likely means they were just protected from predators, given nesting boxes and incubators, and thrown some chickenfeed. And I don't see why we need to make ritual distinctions on the manner of death: blown away by the vice president, beheaded by poultry-beheading machine #4? Dead is dead, and both were likely equally unpleasant for domestic poultry.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 06:52 AM:

I don't really see how this is any different from potting rats at a really exclusive dump, except that at the end of a day of gentlemanly ratplinking there would be fewer live rats.

At best, these guys are getting their jollies dropping a storebought lobster with rubber bands around its claws into boiling water, I think. Their skill had as much to do with their meal.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 11:17 AM:

You ask: "LEWISTON [Idaho] — Nestled on a bench in Hatwai Canyon just north of Lewiston is a barn where farmers Barry and Cindy Holben are raising 400 pheasants and 400 chukars.
When the birds are old enough, the Holbens will release them in their fields for hunters to shoot.

A decade earlier, the same barn was where the Holbens fed a small herd of cattle. Now the economics of that operation have changed, making it so small-scale that ranching doesn4t pay.

Looking for a way to stay on the land, the Holbens, who also raise wheat, peas, lentils and garbanzo beans, have opened Hatwai Hills Farm Upland Gamebird Hunting Preserve. They are among a number of farmers who are looking beyond crops to make their farms pay." from yesterday's AP.

I suspect the local paper put it on the wire for generous no charge advertising for some local operations rather than this being big news.

Nothing wrong with potting rats where conditions permit that I can see although it's not too much fun to be down in the dumps. Ted Trueblood - deceased Idaho outdoor writer - mentioned a visit to an eastern city where that was about the closest some folks could come to a day afield and expressed sympathy but not disdain.

I really don't understand this level of condemnation from a group that I might expect to say your kinks not my kink but OK. I'd say the lobster analogy would be closer to perhaps robbing lobster traps after spotting the bouys as opposed to diving for lobster in the wild for something to condemn.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:08 PM:

Kevin said:

Something I've noticed in all this talk of decadent rich people and their frivolous pleasures is that no one has mentioned the livelihoods of the non-rich non-frivolous people who make their living providing the pheasants and hunting dogs and so on to the rich and rich-for-the-weekend sorts who go to their farms.

This is an argument that I think is badly thought out. The logic of it is no different than arguing, "But what about all those people who make their livelihoods in the drug trade? Not the drug kingpins, but the poor kids in the inner city who earn money by being distributors, the peasants in Peru and Columbia who earn money growing the drugs, and let's not forget all the DEA agents, who would be out of a job if we stopped the War on Some Drugs."

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:45 PM:

American Gothic in the original somewhat satiric meaning? - we need Deliverance from the folks who -gasp- want to stay on the land?

What's wrong with hunting? Why try to draw what must be emotional distinctions?

John Dean Cooper as Jeff Cooper wrote recently: "It turns out that down Texas way one does not exactly hunt for those junior-sized whitetails, but rather he sits in a tree stand and waits for them to come by. Thus the weapon of choice is a great, long, wooden rifle attached to a moonscope. That is not my idea of a deer gun, but it does serve the purpose well. I have never taken any pleasure from hunting from a blind, although I have done so on several occasions. The all-day tramp in the woods, rifle in hand, is what makes the hunt. Sitting on one's posterior, rifle at rest, may be a good way to put meat on the table, but somehow it does not seem to be hunting. However, any hunting is better than no hunting." Given hunting why not any hunting (that preserves the species not the individuals).

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:49 PM:

Clark wrote:

Much of my point in this particular discussion is summed up in "When only the purist example and nothing else is allowed then the purist example is not really allowed either."

Later, he wrote:

I really don't understand this level of condemnation from a group that I might expect to say your kinks not my kink but OK.

You've misunderstood me, I'm afraid. It's true that I don't like hunting, but I don't like it on the same level that I'm not fond of watching people have many, many needles stuck through their skin at a playparty. Definitely a not my kink sort of thing, but not something that I have any moral objection to. I don't have a purist sort of attitude towards hunting. I do think of it as a sport more than a food-gathering excercise, but that's applicable to this place and this time.

I'm not sure about how to respond to your argument that if it weren't for "put and take" hunting, poor people would not be able to hunt. I don't understand hunting very well, and it sounds as if the real objection is that poor people would be significantly less likely to bag game, not that they couldn't go hunting. The one deer hunter I know rarely takes a deer, but he goes out every year. I don't think that the time he takes a deer is are only times that constitutes hunting. (Boy, was he frustrated this year when he didn't manage to get his deer, though.)

My objections haven't had anything to do with hunting per se, dead animals per se, etc. etc. Rather, it is the flaunting of wealth that I find objectionable. Conspicuous consumption by killing animals seems to me to be more disgusting than buying wines too old to drink, or decking one's mistress in diamonds.

(And yes, Kevin, I do think that the really rich are too rich, and that they should not spend so much of their money on pointless excess. That's what makes me a liberal, and you a libertarian.)

Clark, my first post pointed out that it was easy to get distracted by the hunting-thing or the meat-thing, and that is exactly where we've been. Niggling at whether or not there are approved and disapproved forms of hunting, trying to draw lines, setting traps (and Kevin, I happen to know that the most active and effective group for preserving wetlands in Minnesota is are the duck hunters), and generally abstracting positions until they all start looking unreal. Down here on the ground, 417 birds looks like a lot of dead birds to me, I don't like the practice of shooting parties, and anybody going shooting with a Mellon Scaife is not in my good books. There is a bonding experience that happens when guys go out together and kill things, regardless of how easy or hard it is for the prey to get away. I'd prefer that my vice president not be creating such bonds with the richest of the rich. If he wanted to go deer hunting in Minnesota with Pawlenty, I wouldn't have any objections.

Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:57 PM:

The logic of it is no different than arguing, "But what about all those people who make their livelihoods in the drug trade? Not the drug kingpins, but the poor kids in the inner city who earn money by being distributors, the peasants in Peru and Columbia who earn money growing the drugs, and let's not forget all the DEA agents, who would be out of a job if we stopped the War on Some Drugs."

Argument by analogy is a dangerous thing. Equating the legal farm-raising of game birds for hunting with the distribution and sale of illegal drugs is iffy to begin with, since the only obvious point of similarity between the two would appear to be that stopping either one would affect more lives than just those of the people involved at the end point of the process -- and since the same thing could reasonably be said of any complex human endeavor, it doesn't seem to get us any further along.

Of course, if the point of the esercise is to argue by assertion that raising game birds for hunting is the moral equivalent of dealing in illegal drugs, then I suppose the analogy serves its purpose.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 04:13 PM:

As Lydia says, arguing that criticism of how the rich spend their money is unfounded because "somebody benefits" is economically questionable. If the only alternative were for the rich to shove the wads of bills back under their mattresses, this line of argument might make more sense. However, implicit in "they shouldn't do that" is the idea that "they could be doing better things" with their time and money.

I'm not coming down on one side or the other of how reprehensible or not the pheasant shoot was, but if people like these "hunters" spent their money building homes for poor people (for example), then the people currently employed raising pheasants could instead be employed building houses, supplying materials, drawing up plans, etc.

It's similar to, but not quite as obviously bogus, as saying that "vandalism boosts the economy, because it gives employment to glaziers and painters". In both cases, the argument only holds if the alternative is for the money being spent to sit idle.

But then, I don't entirely buy the common idea that hard work is always good, and idleness always bad. Just because pheasant-raisers work hard doesn't make what they do commendable. Again, I don't really feel very strongly about pheasant shooting, but if the rich are reprehensible for doing it, why would working hard make their suppliers less reprehensible for enabling the activity?

To state my personal views, as opposed to the hypothetical ramblings in the 4 paragraphs above, I'm an omnivore. I don't generally kill the animals I eat, which puts me in a morally weak position to condemn anyone who does kill their own prey. After all, I doubt that the animals I eat suffer significantly less than did the pheasants who encountered Mr. Cheney et al.

I have sometimes engaged in sports which involve (externally) pointless difficulty, such as rock climbing. In such sports, one tries to make the goal as difficult as possible, while still being able to achieve it. There are things that Aren't Done, generally for aesthetic reasons (at least in rock climbing, where there are no empathic considerations about involuntary non-human participants). So if someone talks about the difference between shooting ducks on the wing vs. sitting, I can translate that into (say) bolts for protection vs. bolts for direct aid. As a non-hunter, though, I don't feel I can really know where to draw the line between "sufficiently hard" and "too easy", but then it's not really my line to draw.

I have a hunch, though, that any hunt that yields an average of 42 birds per hunter is a little too efficient to be entirely "sporting". How long did this take, anyway? I can't imagine any birds so stupid that after hearing 400 shotgun blasts they would hang around long enough to be the last ones shot. Were the birds released in one or a few large masses, such that a single shot would hit many birds at once?

This leads me to the question of motive. Did they loosen the "rules" because they wanted to impress someone, presumably non hunters? Or to impress themselves, even though they must be aware that they could have tackled something much more difficult? Or because killing gives them more pleasure than does overcoming difficulty within the rules? Or were they just really hungry for pheasant meat?

Ultimately, as a non hunter I don't really expect to understand, but I can't even imagine an alternative me who could understand this particular form of hunting.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 04:31 PM:

As the chance of bagging game -assuming skill- approaches or reaches zero the quality of the act changes - one can birdwatch in city plazas where there are nothing but pigeons and hawks but few do.

For many people the point of bird hunting is working the dogs to flush and retrieve as much as any harvest. There exist doghandlers who don't shoot themselves but ask others to kill the bird for the handler's dog to retrieve.

A wise man said "one does not hunt in order to kill one kills in order to have hunted."

Truth is eco-tourism hasn't brought in the dollars like hunting. My own senses are heightened when hunting is in the prospect - and so are a dogs. I think a well behaved setter in a setting of golden aspen is a gorgeous picture but enhanced by a shotgun in my hands.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 06:19 PM:

Wow, I never thought I'd be painted not only as a libertarian, but a libertarian in favor of the drug trade.

Ditching the drug argument for the moment, which I find badly constructed and silly for reasons already mentioned upstream, with the libertarian angle, there is a difference between destroying something rare and precious and simply making use of a renewable resource, especially if you paid to have that resource renewed.

People enjoy frivolous things all the time, and I personally think they have a right to if it makes them happy and doesn't hurt anyone else. Tonight, I'm going to get together with friends and see the third Lord of the Rings, and I know I'm walk down a sidewalk filled with nuns clanging bells at me, trying to annoy me into giving my $9 to their charity, and homeless people who would probably take that $9 and use it to all to get something to eat (rather than have a portion of it skimmed to add to the Pay Cardinal Bummfuck's Legal Bills fund). And you know what? Screw it. I'm not going to take their guilt trips, I'm going to go see the movie I've been looking forward to since I was twelve, I'm going to sit with my friends and have a good time. I've given to charity before, but I'm not going to sit around in sackcloth and ashes my whole life because someone somewhere is hungry or getting shot.

As much ask I dislike Mr. Cheney, he has a right to have a completely frivolous weekend with his friends, spending their money however they damn well please on whatever frippery they want. Even a pile of dead pheasants. Yes, it's gratuitous potlatching. So are a lot of things. Wedding feasts. Champagne for football players to pour over their heads. The entire holiday season we're into now. You think my niece and nepphew really need ten boxes of Legos? That the money I paid couldn't have been spent saving children, and for that matter, adults, in some country I wouldn't be able to pronounce even if I had heard of it?

You'd be right. But potlatching isn't just about proving what a big man you are, how much money you can burn and whatnot. It's about making yourselves and your friends happy because there's only so much sackcloth and ashes one person can take, and while Cheney may be rich, I'd hardly call him idle. Likewise, Bilbo Baggins could have canceled his birthday party and given all the money he would have paid the caterers to the "Stop Sauron" fund, but he didn't, and good for him.

Being liberal isn't just a matter of self-flagelation and self-deprivation, or faulting other people who aren't doing the same. Sometimes, it's a matter of small, careful decisions: I buy my niece and nepphew not-terribly-violent quality toys made by a respectable European company that doesn't run third-world sweatshops; I buy crafts from local artisans; I buy organic produce when possible.

But I do occasionally enjoy myself, and I'm not going to find with others doing the same.

clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 06:46 PM:

Some comments on the alternative employment including building houses:
Farmers turn to hunting for funds
Folks start up small businesses to cope with slowdown

"“Basically I4m trying to earn a living,” Rich said. “Doing everything you love to do,” said Shannon, completing the sentence for him.

It4s also allowing Eggleston to raise his four daughters on the same property where his wife lived as a girl. The Egglestons have tried being a more conventional couple. He used to be a commercial building contractor in Silverton, Colo., while she stayed home and tended to their first child.

With her farming background, Shannon prefers being a partner with her husband in a family business. It was the example set by her own parents.

Businesses such as these are obvious choices for farms. Little investment is involved if the land is already in a family. The Newmans spent about $3,000 on targets, equipment to shoot targets, insurance and brochures, Cary said.

The Holbens refurbished the barn and bought pheasant and chukar chicks, along with adult birds. These alternatives also make it possible to earn income from land in canyons and other types of terrain that4s difficult to farm.

In the Newmans4 case, some of the business is on ground that4s too wet to cultivate. The experience for outdoor enthusiasts at each of the businesses varies.

The hunting preserves provide a longer season than those for wild birds. Cavendish Sporting Clays gives shooters a place to hone their skills year-round." Full text at
http://www.idahostatesman.com/Common/PrintMe.asp?ID=56396 [link will go dead very soon]Just like folks in the 'hood trying to make a living out of what's available by catering to human weaknesses.

Furthermore folks in Illinois are doing this on land Abraham Lincoln helped steal from Chief Blackhawk and the folks in Idaho are on land more or less stolen from the Nez Pierce - intolerable.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 07:33 PM:

For the record, I wasn't arguing that people in the business of supplying people like Cheney are evil, nor that what Cheney did should be banned. I was just pointing out that "this activity provides employment" is not that strong a recommendation.

The second half of my post was trying to make the point that while I've never hunted in my life, I think I can at least intellectually understand the appeal of many forms of hunting, but I'm baffled by the appeal of what Cheney was involved in.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 08:11 PM:

My God! He was keeping our country safe from the peril posed by the Melanistic Mutant Pheasant. That's right--mutant pheasants! It probably teleports or shoots lasers out of its eyes or something.

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 10:35 PM:

"I don't regard plinking perambulatory targets as anything like difficult enough to grant the social status of hunting."

Graydon

The squirrels I shoot during the fruiting season, are not easy shots (then again, I am also using a .22 air-rifle).

No, I don't have to do much work to get to them (hell, they come to me) but unless I happen to be sitting in the yard, and they scurry down the side of the tree I'm looking at... it's work.

The usual shot is at a squirrel on the top of a thick branch, from 60-100 feet away. If I can't get the right placement, there's no point in taking the only thot I'm going to get.

Maybe it's just glorified target practice (and I did shoot competition air-rifle, so small targets aren't at all alien to me) but the days I get more than 30 percent of the squirrels someplace I can take the shot are rarer than not.

Terry K.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:06 AM:

Kevin:

"You'd be right. But potlatching isn't just about proving what a big man you are, how much money you can burn and whatnot."

This excursion of Cheney's had nothing to do with potlatch. And it's really important to me that potlatches not be confused with the kind of slaughter Cheney's "shooting party" indulged themselves in.

LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:53 AM:

Killing is about power. Killing animals wantonly, without paying any cost whatsoever in either sweat or risk, merely for the pleasure of it, is arrogance and savagery masquerading as sport. Imo.


-l.

Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 03:31 PM:

Way back, in the long-longago, when I lived in the US, I went fishing in one of those commercial trout pool things.

Now, in the Catskills, there are a great many trout put into the various rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, and a great many of them are taken out, for varying lengths of time, and for varying purposes. The problem is, there are a great many people chasing after these trout, which leaves the trout somewhat difficult to catch, both due to a certain measure of condition, and due to the more accessible areas being over-fished.

This is not what happens at the places where you pay by the pound after the fishing is done. There are a great many fish in a small place, and they're even stupider than your standard issue fish, which, for all that Aquaman seems to be able to carry on meaningful conversations with them, is a fairly high level of stupid. I mean, we didn't have guns, and the fish weren't actually in a barrel, but the degree of skill and effort involved wasn't all that different from the whole fish-barrel-shooting thing.

I caught nine good-sized fish in an hour and a half, which was better than I had done in the previous two years. It was fun, too, albeit a different sort of fun than spending a few hours at a riverbank and lazing about, with a fishing rod in hand. While I didn't personally eat all the fish I caught, they were all eaten within the next few days.

Perfect analogies are impossible, of course, but this seems to me to be fairly close to the sort of thing that Cheney and company were doing. I mean, we conspicuously consumed, by driving for a couple of hours each way, and paying almost as much as the fish would have cost in a store once they were caught.

I guess I just don't understand the sort of morality that surrounds hunting and such. If I found wild ducks to be tasty, and had no religious objections to converting live ducks into food by firearms, I'd shoot them in whatever manner was legal, be they flying, or sitting, or riding small duck bicycles. In fact, to my mind, refusing to shoot them unless they're moving seems a bit. . . wrong -- if I'm going to be killing animals, it seems incumbent on me to avoid causing them unnecessary pain, and the odds of getting a less than perfect shot seem higher when the birds are on the wing.

On a similar note, I don't understand catch and release fishing at all. Even assuming that the fish survives being caught and released, which it often doesn't, it's still torturing a fish for nothing other than simple amusement. And yet, catch and release is seen as somehow morally superior to catch and eat; hell, it's often seen as being somehow morally superior to sit at home and watch TV, which, in most cases, doesn't involve the torture of any wild animals at all.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 04:58 AM:

Of course, as quease-inducing as this all seems to me, there is a possibility that the secret service wouldn't let him into any less-controlled environment to hunt just now - it'd be hard to close down any legitimate game range enough to make it secure when there'll be a lot of guns going off.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 06:31 PM:

The price for hunting tags for heads of state is rather high, though the bragging rights and trophy value are also consequently higher.

It would have been more honest if we'd printed up hunting tags instead of playing cards when we made Iraq our own most-dangerous-game preserve. But then again, honesty isn't something I've come to expect from this administration.